How ‘Helicopter Parents’ Are Actually Setting Their Children Back in Life
Parents just want the best for their kids. They care about their child’s mental and physical well being and just want them to be happy and successful. However, in the last few years there have been an increasing number of parents who take their caring and concern to a new level even after their child has left home. A college student’s parents may no longer be physically present in his or her daily life, but that does not mean that certain parents are any less involved. Parents are making themselves known to their college student’s professors, advisers, counselors, and even the school president. President of Frostburg State University, Jonathan Gibralter, says he has actually had parents call him directly to complain about fights between their child and his or her roommate, rather than just advising their child to speak with a resident adviser.
These “helicopter parents” are always going to bat for their children, pushing them to succeed, and constantly advocating for them, however, in the cloud of their concern and protectiveness, many of these parents fail to see the harm it can actually cause. While a certain level of parental involvement may help boost a student’s confidence and keep them on the right track, too much involvement sets them back. If a child learns to depend on his or her parents for everything and never learn to do anything for themselves, they are much less likely to flourish with their new found independence.
Results from recent studies have shown that over-parenting tends to decrease a child’s coping skills, their sense of accomplishment and ability to be independent, as well as their ability to deal with the workplace. Students who call or text their parents constantly and depend on them to assist in all their decision-making processes are more likely to have trouble adapting to their new environment and may quickly become homesick.
The author of a recent article on the subject gave an example of a female student whose parents actually did all of her papers and homework throughout her college career, so she would graduate with an extremely high GPA. Unfortunately, when she graduated and entered into a career, she suffered from terrible anxiety and would experience an anxiety attack anytime she was met with a challenging problem or situation.
While letting go proves extremely difficult for any parent, but for the sake of the child it is crucial to find a balance of how involved you’re going to be once they go to college. After you say your goodbyes at the dorm, it is important to give your child the little push they need to learn how to deal with the changes coming at them and properly adjust to their new environment. This doesn’t mean you can never intervene or should be concerned if they call twice a day for the first two weeks “just to say hi”, however, try to resist the urge to hover or swoop in and take control every time they have a dilemma. This may even mean discouraging them to come home at all for the first month of college or learning how to text sometimes instead of always call.
But psychologists aren’t suggesting parents should kick their child to the curb after high school and never intervene, either. They are simply recommending parents set boundaries around their level of interference to find the right balance that helps the child blossom in their new setting without feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or isolated.
The best way for parents to figure out what will work and not work with their teen is to sit down as a family and have an honest conversation about how the aspiring college student wants their experience to go, how the parents can help and support them, and how involved the child wants them to be- before the start of their freshman year. Actually leaving home and making the transition to college may change some new students’ minds about certain things as well, so when they come home for their winter break after their first semester, sit down with them again and have the same conversation to see how everything is going and determine if any changes need to be made.
ONCEKids Publishing is run by literacy advocate and Mompreneur Eileen Wacker. Click here to find her acclaimed books